Ladies, if you’ve ever dreamed of being the alluring woman behind the wheel of that white Ford Thunderbird in the movie "American Graffiti," there’s hope. Simply restore a T-Bird yourself.
That’s one of the options car lovers have when venturing into the world of classic car collecting. For the curious, family-friendly car shows are held frequently, and fans of classic cars — whether new to the relationship or in a longtime love affair — are always welcome.
Chuck Dyarmett, president of Lanierland Old Car Club, recently restored a 1957 T-Bird. He gave it a fresh coat of aquamarine paint and neatly tucked a new 5-liter, fuel-injected engine under the hood.
"I like the way everything came together on it," he said. "You never know how it’ll turn out until you put it all together. I like it as a total car."
Not a great do-it-yourselfer? Then buy a classic car born of someone’s else blood, sweat and tears (not to mention money). There’s an award-winning, fully restored 1934 Auburn V-12 Salon, Model-1250 Phaeton that might tickle your fancy in the classified section. It’s yours for a mere $385,000.
Cars made 25 years ago — that’s 1982, if you’re counting — are considered antiques. Drivers who admired them years ago are buying them now.
That’s one reason Dyarmett restored a yellow and black 1956 Mercury Monterey.
"It’s a nostalgia thing," he said. "I drove one like it in high school. It brings back good memories."
Dyarmett said he loves to do much of the restoration work himself.
"It’s a learning experience that brings the satisfaction of learning how to do something, and a sense of accomplishment. You get the job done, then you can share what you’ve learned with others."
He has also brought a Nassau Blue 1966 Corvette Stingray and a ’35 Pontiac two-tone blue street rod back to life.
Dexter Stanley is another gentleman with a love for older cars.
"I like fast cars, but I don’t drive fast," he said. He usually drives his red Chevy II street rod in parades and car shows, but with the new transmission, rear-end and disc brakes he installed, "it will hit 120 in the quarter-mile" at the drag strip.
As with other collectors, Stanley has cars that appealed to him in his youth. He owns a quieter gold/green 1964 Ford Fairlane that he and his wife, Kathy, drive around town and to church. Stanley said it makes them feel like they’re going "back in time."
The cost to get into collecting classic cars varies depending on what your price limit is, Dyarmett said.
"Whatever you want to spend, but for a few thousand dollars you can get into the hobby," he said. "Early Mustangs are especially popular."
The days of trudging through dirty junk yards hoping to find such elusive parts as radio knobs or door handles are over. Now, nationally prominent companies such as Year One in Braselton and Mustangs Unlimited in Lawrenceville sell thousands of brand-new replacement and performance parts for older cars. Oddly enough, parts for many older cars are still available over the counter or by special order at standard auto parts stores.
If you begin a restoration project, you can save money by doing some work yourself.
Stripping the old finish prior to repainting a car, for example, can save you more than $1,000.
Raymond Pethel was the founding president of Lanierland Old Car Club in 1979. Back then, the motto was "family fun with cars."
Even today, he gets excited about old cars. "They’re like works of art," he said. "But you can enjoy them with your family."
One of Pethel’s favorite cars is the 1967 Chevy Impala he bought in 1970. The car is red with a black top and is in original condition, except for an upgraded interior.
Pethel said he bought the car from a friend "who knew I’d take care of it." That must have been the best week of Pethel’s life: The day before he had met a woman named Lethia who later became his wife.
They keep it sparkling clean as they cruise around Gainesville.
"We wouldn’t sell the car for any price," he said. "It’s a happiness."